Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS/WOLFGANG RATTAY
Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS/WOLFGANG RATTAY

It may just be parochialism that leads South Africans to believe their politicians are unique in the way they attack institutions such as the Reserve Bank. But populism is on the rise almost everywhere, and with it comes criticism of their own central banks by the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations.

The most extraordinary recent attack was the one launched last week by US President Donald Trump, on Twitter of course: "Who is our bigger enemy, [Federal Reserve governor] Jay Powell, or Chairman Xi?"

Of course, the biggest menace to US public finances and the nation’s economic standing is Trump himself, whose misguided, vacillating trade war with China is starting to have a global impact while placing the Fed in an unenviable position — cut rates and stoke inflation, or hold the line and weather Trump’s aggressive rhetoric.

In India, meanwhile, the central bank has capitulated to a demand by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that it transfer $24.8bn in dividends and "surplus capital" to shore up the country’s frail finances.

By comparison, the ANC’s attitude to the Bank has been positively restrained. But the risk is that the likes of Trump and Modi might inspire it to bolder action — something we could ill afford.